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AAOS 2021: A Much-Needed Shot in the Arm

Op-Med is a collection of original articles contributed by Doximity members.

San Diego! My absolute favorite conference destination in the continental U.S. The delta variant was on the rise, and the country looked to be heading back to hermetic measures. While a domestic travel ban had not been reinstated by my home institution, professional travel was discouraged unless otherwise deemed necessary. The decision was made to continue with the program, and appropriate health measures were implemented: social programs were tailored back or canceled, and many side meetings were also deferred.

I decided to attend. I was to give an instructional course lecture, and I felt a genuine responsibility to educate my fellow academy members, trainees, and co-instructors. Personally, a quick jaunt down to my favorite city, with appropriate precautions, would be refreshing professionally and personally.

The capacity of the convention center felt markedly vacuous given the limited attendance. Walking the halls, mask in place and socially distanced, I did run into colleagues, and it was a joy to have in-person conversations. The human contact with my peers was reinvigorating and inspiring. The instructional course went off without a hitch, and attendance was reasonable. It was refreshing to listen to my associates share their wisdom while seated among others in the audience.

The Gaslamp seemed to be bustling. To see so many socializing and relaxing, albeit using precautions, imparted a sense of joy. People need this. Our social selves have been partitioned away for over a year and a half. And from that, dread has crept into the collective consciousness, almost perniciously.

As I reflect on how COVID-19 has impacted our field, I am again reminded of how grateful and honored I feel to be an orthopaedic surgeon. The need for our services and our dedication to our fellow citizens has never wavered. To all of my front-line colleagues, your heroism and sense of duty and responsivity are beyond awe-inspiring. Thank you will never be enough. Over this past year, our department and health system adapted and adjusted to continue its mission to provide world-class, value-driven care, and then some. Like so many others, we responded to the calling as a community for the common good. We modified how we taught our trainees and each other. Our innovation through leading-edge research had to be toned back, and our advocacy for others only became stronger.

Having just finished “Code Breaker” by Walter Isaacson and possessing a passion for molecular biology, I am reverent to science and all the wonderful minds that have unlocked so many mysteries since classical antiquity. Through science, humanity has created so much of what we take for granted every day. I also remain amazed at how some eschew the peer-reviewed and stringently tested facts and data, disregarding rational thought in preference to one’s sense of personal freedom. We all live on this one planet. My neighbors’ problems are my problems. I certainly do not want to be the source of their challenges and anxieties. I will curb my individualism so that others can better enjoy their liberty.

During AAOS 21, civilization continued with its calamities. Another hurricane wreaked horrible havoc in the East, the western forest conflagrations rage on, our international concerns around terrorism are rebounding, domestic terrorism remains, issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion must remain front and center. These are but a few. 

For those of us who have aligned against COVID-19, and all of these other tragedies, thank you for modeling the way. For those who choose to look away, please reflect on how this affects others.

I write this as I fly back home to a family and life I adore and cherish. I do feel renewed, thanks to the limited, brief congregation with my colleagues. AAOS 21 has served as a proverbial “shot in the arm” beyond the vaccine that will keep me going as we ride out the latest chapter in what may be an ongoing relationship with this most adaptive of crowned RNA parasites. The question becomes, how adaptive can we be?

Dr. Randall is employed by University of California, Davis

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